Sparking Interest in Gardening

What do insects, compost, seeds, and putting celery in colorful water have in common?

They are all part of activities elementary school youth were doing at two local gardens with Greentown Grows staff!

The past few weeks have been busy for Greentown Grows volunteers. They worked with youth from the Boys and Girls Club of Lake County and Cool Learning Experience, teaching them about plants, gardening, and enjoying the abundant insects in our environment.

The Boys and Girls Club of Lake County ambitiously increased the number of raised beds at their Genesee location from 6 to 16! The youth from ages 6 – 14 participated in building the beds, filling them with aged compost, and planting seeds and seedlings. They also had to clean out weeds in the existing 6 beds. The organization realizes the need for locally grown produce for the community and with this garden expansion, can assist more families than before. What a beautiful program to inspire children and generously support families in need! The expansion would not be possible without the generous donation of compost from DK Organics

Hunting for insects and other mini beasts was exceptionally exciting for the younger youth. In the next picture, they are digging for insects. 

The younger youth visited Greentown Grows’ community garden at Callahan Park twice during the summer. They captured insects, tasted vegetables right off the plant, and did a seed dissection experiment there. Our staff heard comments like “this is fun” or “best day ever,” which let us know the program was successful.

Rising 4th and 5th-grade students from Cool Learning Experience had a more immersive experience at the Greentown Grows’ community garden. While they also captured insects to study, they did lessons each week on the parts of a plant. In the picture below, celery stalks were placed in water dyed with food color. After 30 minutes, the celery transported the water up the plant’s xylem. The xylem is visible as the dyed streaks in the stalks. 

Service learning is part of their summer program; they fulfilled that requirement by learning how to harvest. Each week, they took roughly 50 lbs. of fresh produce to their program. The harvest was then shared with the families in the program.

The youth also found fascinating insects, like this walking stick and ladybug larvae. All were released back into the garden.

Learning in the garden would not be complete without tasting vegetables right off the plant. There is nothing like fresh peas. The children enjoyed them so much they ate every pod! Broccolini is tender and sweet, primarily the stems. Those too were a big hit. 

Lastly, they enjoyed eating the rainbow of vegetables and fruit. Lychees were a new experience for them, and they loved them.

Overall, Greentown Grows worked with at least 100 youth this summer, hoping they will someday grow their own food. A local food revolution that starts when seeds are planted with youth.

We thank our sponsor, Valent Biosciences, for supplying us with seedlings for the community garden and area organizations like Cool Learning Experience and Boys and Girls Club. Also, Mary’s Greenhouse provided us with seedlings, especially herbs, expanding the variety of produce we offer. And none of this would be possible without the volunteers who rebuilt the garden in the spring. Thank you!

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